Does Your Church Preach Social Justice?

March 12, 2010

FoxNews commentator Glenn Beck recently created a stir when he attacked churches that teach "social justice." He argued last week:

I'm begging you, your right to religion and freedom to exercise religion and read all of the passages of the Bible as you want to read them and as your church wants to preach them ... are going to come under the ropes in the next year. If it lasts that long it will be the next year. I beg you, look for the words 'social justice' or 'economic justice' on your church Web site. If you find it, run as fast as you can. Social justice and economic justice, they are code words. Now, am I advising people to leave their church? Yes.
Beck then compared the concept of social justice to the teachings of the Nazis and the communists. Unfortunately, it seems that one of the first preachers targeted by Beck's degree was a guy who declared:
The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.
Of course, there are lots of other Bible verses that teach social justice besides just the sermon by Jesus in Luke 4. Several Christian groups have stepped up to teach Beck about how one cannot really preach the Gospel without talking about social justice issues. Christian author Jim Wallis called on Christians to stop watching Beck. The organization Bread for the World is collecting signatures for a petition to deliver to Beck. They will also give him a copy of the new Poverty and Justice Bible that highlights passages about those topics. Mormon leaders have also explained that their church teaches social justice (Beck is Mormon). Even Republican cheerleader Richard Land of the Southern Baptist Convention critiqued Beck's comments. Interestingly, the conservative Heritage Foundation recently released a DVD called Seek Social Justice, which is about how churches can engage in social justice.

Beck has responded to this storm of reactions. Earlier this week, Beck continued his attacks on social justice by promoting an individualistic view of the Bible's teachings:
It is a perversion of the gospel. ... You want to help out? You help out. It changes you. That's what the gospel is all about: You.
He also attacked Wallis as a "dedicated foe of capitalism." Now, however, Beck has admitted that social justice can be good if "you empower yourself to go out and help the poor" and that the phrase is not always used to promote Marxist beliefs. Hopefully, Beck has come to a better understanding of the issue and will stop attacking the teachings of Jesus and the prophets.

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